Professor: University Podcasts Are Totally Bogus

Oct 20th, 2006 | By | Category: Audio Podcasting, Educational Podcasts

While educational podcasts are becoming more and more accepted as tool for offering anytime, anywhere education, not everyone welcomes the new technology.

Northern Illinois University Associate Professor of Theater and Dance Robert Schneider argues that podcasting not an appropriate alternative to classroom education.

“Students who consent to dilute their classroom experience by forcing it through an iPod are shortchanging themselves. Those of my colleagues who have allowed their teaching to degenerate into mere utterance are shortchanging their students,” argues Schneider.

“I meet my classes in person because I’m not a disembodied voice, a broadcast, a Web site or a phenomenon of cyberspace. Nor am I just transmitting information like a talking clock; I’m also transmitting the values which alone make that information worth having,” he adds.

“Student discussion and debate is the heart of my class. I would have preferred a warning: podcasts of university courses are not ‘every student’s dream’; they’re totally bogus, an excuse for lack of commitment from professors and students alike.”

“Anyone who still believes in the transformative value of higher education will resist podcastification with a passion.”

via NorthStar Online

No Responses to “Professor: University Podcasts Are Totally Bogus”

  1. julien says:

    how is this news? of course it’s not a substitute for classroom education – no one is telling podcast listeners (or radio listeners for that matter) that they don’t need to go out there and make friends or educate themselves in different ways! this is totally absurd, i can’t believe this made news.

  2. David Aldrich says:

    According to the University of Washington Campus Report entitled, “Podcasting: Evaluation of Year One,” which is based on research from the podcasting pilot that my team designed and implemented:

    “When asked to identify the strengths of podcasting, instructors most frequently mentioned the opportunity it provided for students to access lecture content, either to clarify difficult concepts or to catch up if they missed class. According to one instructor, ‚ÄúThe greatest strength is to allow students to learn even if they have to miss class.‚Äù Students agreed with instructors. In an open-ended question that asked students to identify the strengths of podcasting, over 40% of respondents listed its ability to help them catch up if they missed a class. One student remarked, ‚ÄúI became very sick this quarter, and the podcasts greatly helped me catch up on what I missed in class.‚Äù The next most common strength of podcasting identified by students was its usefulness in clarifying concepts discussed in class. According to one student, ‚ÄúIt really is a great thing to be able to listen again to class lectures. I‚Äôve been able to gain such a better understanding of the material using them.‚Äù Students also reported using podcasts to prepare for homework and exams and to fill in gaps in their notes. One student wrote, ‚ÄúIt allowed me to be more engaged during the lecture and not just furiously taking notes. If I missed something I wanted to include in my notes I could go back to the podcast and fill in what I missed.‚Äù In summary, the principal strengths identified by all evaluation participants, instructors and students, involved the ability to use the podcasts for easy access to lecture content.”

    Read the complete report here:

    I recently attended the Podcast and Portable Media Exposition in Ontario California — the various educators present were all very jazzed about podcasting and its application in the educational environment. I see students as “digital natives” and I believe the University of Washington is very forward thinking in their efforts to fund technologies that deliver course support material to students where they want to consume it — and that is often on their turf and on their time schedule.

  3. As the person who began the podcasting initiative at the University of Connecticut, I essentially agree with Robert Schneider. Merely “coursecasting” is hardly novel, nor is it necessarily pedagogically enhancing. People have been recording lectures ever since portable tape recorders hit the market at affordable prices. I discuss this in an article that appeared on October 18, 2006, on the Campus Technology website:
    Podcasting can be an educational enhancement, but I think we need to go beyond coursecasting and figure out how this technology can actually enhance pedagogy. I’ve tried a few ways of doing this that are described in this article, and I’d like to hear what other people have been doing as well.

  4. I read David’s article on the evaluation of the U of Washington podcasting project (and the evaluation report) and it’s clear that students and faculty there see value in podcasting as a tool for promoting teaching and learning. And that a major fear, decreased attendance, is unwarranted.

    You may also be interested in viewing a video of a presentation at Podcast Academy 2 (Boston University) in which university professors from Duke and Harvard talk about how they use podcasting in their teaching. (

    We have used iPods and podcasting extensively for several years at my institution, Georgia College, although not to redeliver lectures. You may want to look at our site to see some other uses of podcasting to enhance classroom and augment study abroad. ( Our students have reacted very positively to podcasting and the ways it can supplement the classroom. Quite the opposite of the “lack of commitment of students and faculty” described in the “Bogus” article, incorporating podcasting requires teachers and students to think more deeply about our content, look for new connections when using media, and be more reflective about the ways we teach and assess students.

    However, podcasting is not a cure for bad teaching or non-engaged students. But I’ve seen plenty of both in traditional, university classrooms.

  5. info says:

    This is an important discussion/debate to have.

    While Schneider’s view seems to me to be a bit extreme, a student that relied on podcasts heavily would be depriving themselves of a lot of information.

    Universities will need time to figure out how to effectively use podcasts, and to effectively incorporate them. For example – if a student relies on audio podcasts and skips classes, are they getting the same education as students that actually make it to class? Schools may need policies to deal with this.

    Another issue is that some instructors will just be lousy at doing podcasts. They may need additional training in order to use the technology effectively.

    It may be several years before a consensus on best practices for educational podcasts emerges.

  6. Robert Schneider says:

    What the Northern Star published as a letter to the editor was a hacked-up version of an article I submitted in response to a previous article touting podcasts as a splendid innovation that would allow able-bodied students to stay in bed while their computers downloaded their classes for the day. The article I was responding to made no mention of those who were forced to miss class for medical or other reasons. The full text of my submission appears below. The Northern Star also promoted me: I’m only an assistant professor. — R.S.
    Why My Classes will Never Be Available as Podcasts

    by Robert Schneider

    The subject I teach is largely about events, irrecoverable, ephemeral, you-had-to-be-there-type events. The events can’t be recorded, abstracted, time-delayed or transmitted in any form without losing their quality of live-ness, one of the essential qualities that make them worth studying in the first place. The specificity of these events, the way they are bound in time and reserved for those who were present to witness them is one of the most important things I have to communicate to my students.

    In a larger sense, my class meetings are also events: participation is reserved for those who manage to get out of bed, put on some clothes and drag themselves to the appointed classroom at the appointed time. I‚Äôm one of those people. It‚Äôs a nuisance to me to go to class, but my presence is essential: it shows that there‚Äôs at least one person in the world who cares enough about the subject to get out of bed and get dressed in order to transmit its principles to students who‚Äôve made a similar sacrifice for a similar purpose. I meet my classes in person because I don‚Äôt wish to be perceived as a disembodied voice, a broadcast, a website or a phenomenon of cyberspace. I‚Äôm not content to transmit information like a talking clock; I need to transmit the values which alone make that information worth having. So I have to be there. If this means I occasionally have to speak without adequate preparation, misspell words on the blackboard, garble my sentences and generally work without recourse to a second ‚Äútake,‚Äù so be it. Because I‚Äôm a living presence in the classroom, those of my students who wish to learn more about my subject (perhaps chose it as a major or to do graduate work in it later on) have an example to emulate: me. At eight in the morning I may not be beautiful — hell, I may not even be fully awake, but I‚Äôm there; I‚Äôm dressed. I‚Äôm ready to answer questions and defend my views to the best of my ability.

    I require students to participate in my classes ‚Äì and I don‚Äôt mean ‚Äúrequire‚Äù in the sense that if they don‚Äôt participate, they won‚Äôt pass. I require their participation because I can‚Äôt teach without it; I have to be able to sense if my students are following me or not. Their participation is essential even if ‚Äì as occasionally happens — it takes the form of a blank look or a stifled snore. I will never walk into an empty room to deliver a stream of scholarly syllables into a microphone for an hour and a quarter and call that teaching. Student discussion and debate is the heart of my class. I can‚Äôt do without it and I can‚Äôt duplicate it in a podcast.

    Students who opt for convenience and consent to dilute their classroom experience by forcing it through an iPod are shortchanging themselves.

    Those of my colleagues who have allowed their teaching to degenerate into mere utterance are shortchanging their students.

    Lazy students and lazy professors form an unholy alliance whose principal goal is facility and whose principal product is boredom for all concerned. New technology often provides an alibi for both groups – it’s easier, so it must be better, right? In her Classroom in an iPod article on Monday, Lauren Stott embraces this noxious tendency whole-heartedly. I would have preferred a warning: podcasts of university courses are not “every student’s dream”; they’re totally bogus, a thin surrogate for real instruction, a fig leaf for disengagement, an excuse for lack of commitment from professors and students alike.

    People who believe in the transformative value of higher education will resist podcastification with a passion.

    Robert Schneider
    Assistant Professor of Theatre and Dance
    Northern Illinois University

  7. Keith says:

    Podcasting should just be another tool used for education. Not a replacement.

  8. info says:


    Thanks for sharing your full letter.

    It’s too bad that the North Star had to chop up your text – they must have to deal with space limitations in their print version.

    We wanted to highlight your thoughts because Universities are starting to rush into podcasting, and people are beginning to look at this new technology with a variety of viewpoints, some embracing it and some being skeptical.

    The reality is probably someplace in between. I don’t agree with your statement that educational podcasting is “totally bogus”, but there does seem to be a wide-eyed acceptance in the educational world to new technology.

    If grade schools want to buy kids laptops, for example, nobody seems to question this, even though any software or technology that they learn to use will be obsolete before they graduate from high-school. These kids would be better off if that money went to helping them learn something that won’t become obsolete, like a foreign language, logic or music.

    That said, it seems like you’re viewing educational podcasts as an alternative to going to class. There will be both students and educators that use podcasting as a crutch, but most will use it as a tool to augment traditional methods.

    Don’t you think that there would be some value for your students to be able to listen to your lectures and discussions a second time? Their notes won’t be as accurate as a recording. If your students could listen to a podcast of your class, they would be getting the info straight from your mouth, rather than from hastily scribbled notes.

    Podcasts could also free students to focus on what you say while they are in your class, rather than trying to take notes. This could lead to richer class interactions.

    You suggested that you can duplicate the interactions that you get in class with a podcasts. This is true – but don’t be blind to the rich interactions that are possible with podcasts and blogs. This Podcasting News post is an example; there’s more information to be gained from the comment discussion than from either our original post or from your letter. I’d also recommend checking out the interaction that happens at Ze Frank’s The Show, a video podcast. He frequently asks his viewers for input, and the richness and the variety of the interaction is amazing. This capability is something educators should be aware of.

    Finally, having podcasts available may let students learn from you when they are on the bus, commuting, while excercising or while they are working at a mundane student job. These may not be ideal times for learning, but they are nonetheless times that podcast opens up for students to learn from you.

    Educational podcasting is just a new tool. Students will get the most benefit from them if skeptics can work with the early adopters to figure out how best to integrate the capabilities of this new tool into education.

  9. Jason says:

    To those who wish to understand Dr. Schneider’s reservations about Podcasts further, he has written a column for The Chronicle of Higher Education:

    Shame on NorthernStar for hacking up Dr. Schneider’s opinion piece! It either shows that the editor (or whoever actually controls the newspaper) has little patience for nuanced pieces due to space and/or money, or that the editor is so enthralled with technology that he would not allow someone to express skepticism about Podcasting without making him or her sound like a “Luddite.”

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